Kent County Levy Court's new economic development director knows it is easy to be seduced by the new industry that’s looking to locate somewhere and bring 500 new jobs to town. But for James G. Waddington, a veteran New Jersey businessman, the conservation of what a town has cannot be ignored when thinking about the future.
Kent County Levy Court's new economic development director knows it is easy to be seduced by the new industry that’s looking to locate somewhere and bring 500 new jobs to town.
But for James G. Waddington, a veteran New Jersey businessman, the conservation of what a town has cannot be ignored when thinking about the future.
“Generally, when you do a mission statement for an economic development office, the thing at the top of the mission statement is usually business retention – No. 1, business expansion – No. 2 and then recruiting new business – No. 3,” he said.
Waddington most recently was director of economic development for Salem County, N.J., from January 2003 until Monday, his first day on the job for Kent County. Prior to that, he spent more than 20 years as president and chief executive officer of Waddington Dairy and as vice president of marketing after a business merger.
Kent County Levy Court welcomed Waddington as its new economic development director at its Tuesday night meeting. Levy Court created the Office of Economic Development and Business Assistance in July as part of its absorption of the Kent Economic Partnership.
“Mr. Waddington is a seasoned professional with a track record of success in regional economic development, private business and local government,” Kent County Administrator Michael Petit de Mange said. “We are glad to have him join the Kent County team.’
Waddington, a widower from Salem County, N.J., has two grown children who are married.
Waddington’s entry rate salary is $60,500 per year.
He sat down with the Dover Post for a question and answer session Wednesday.
Q What accomplishments were you most proud of as Salem County director of economic development?
A We had a large glass plant in Salem City called Anchor Glass that went through chapter 11 [bankruptcy] about five years ago. They were owned by an investment capital firm at the time. They generally invest in businesses and then spin off the assets and make money doing that. We were concerned that in that reorganization process they might try to close the local plant. So, we … addressed a lot of their issues regarding expenses of the local plant, including things like wastewater management. The city of Salem and the county of Salem put together a comprehensive plan to address their concerns. We managed to create some legislation in New Jersey, which provided a sales tax exemption on energy purchases for manufacturing plants in Salem County. That saved Anchor Glass in excess of $1 million per year just on their sales tax expenditures on energy purchases. At the end of the day, when they came out of bankruptcy, they kept that plant open and closed a different plant. It was a great example of state government, county government, local government and the chamber of commerce working together to provide a package of incentives to retain a pretty critical manufacturing business.
Q What does an economic development director do?
A Very often, when there’s the potential for new business, you have a lot of different, interested parties who are competing to be involved in making that happen. And everyone means well. The job of the economic development director is to just sort of make sure that effort is coordinated.
Q Do you see yourself working with your counterpart in the city, Dover Economic Development Director William Neaton?
A Absolutely. That’s the way it has to work. I haven’t met Bill yet. But that’ll be one of the early meetings.
Q How did your experience in government and private business prepare you for this role?
A Our family-owned business expanded rapidly during the 1980s and into the 1990s. At one point, we employed 350 people in Salem County. We had five restaurants. I understand the retail trade. I understand the regulatory frustrations that business owners deal with. I think I have a fair amount of knowledge from the other side of the fence. Because of that, I hope it makes me an effective economic development director.